The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday recommended that all children regardless of their vaccination status should wear masks when they return to class, drawing pushback from Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Earlier this month, the agency had recommended that only unvaccinated children wear masks while in school, meaning that all children under the age of 12 need to wear masks in class.
But on Tuesday, the agency again changed its guidelines, which are merely a recommendation, said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky in a news conference. The reason why, she said, is due to the “Delta” COVID-19 variant.
Those guidelines, she said, are “a real effort to try and make sure that our kids can safely get back to school in-person learning in the fall.” Her announcement came as the agency recommended that vaccinated people in certain areas of the United States wear masks indoors in public—coming after it announced about two months ago that they don’t have to use face coverings.
The CDC announcements drew immediate pushback from Republicans, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has encouraged individuals to get vaccinated rather than wear masks.
In a roundtable meeting on Tuesday, the Republican Florida governor again said that mask-wearing for children “should not be mandated.”
“I know our legislature feels strongly about it, such that if you started to see a push from the feds or some of these local school districts, I know they’re interested in coming in, even in a special session to be able to provide protections for parents and kids who just want to breathe freely and don’t want to be suffering under these masks during the school year.”
DeSantis added that vaccines offer a “significant decline in mortality,” and asked: “What’s the point of tracking these cases the way we’re tracking the cases if in fact we believe the vaccines protect you from severe outcome[s] but may not necessarily protect you from testing positive?”
Walensky explained that the reason for the new mask mandates is due to the spread of the Delta variant, which, she added, caught federal officials by surprise.
“When we released our school guidance on July 9, we had less Delta variants in the country, we have fewer cases in this country. And importantly, we were really hopeful that we would have more people vaccinated especially in the demographic between 12 and 17 years old,” Walensky said.
Federal data shows that about 69 percent of U.S. adults have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 60 percent have been fully vaccinated.